By Ogova Ondego
Published November 1, 2008
When Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term ‘Rainbow Nation’ in reference to South Africa, he may as well have been referring to Cape Town and its environs as captured in The Fairest Cape, a travel and tourism book on Cape Town and the Western Cape Province of South Africa.
Any one who has been to Cape Town and reads this book is likely to lapse into precious memories. On the other hand, any one who hasn’t been to the Western Cape and reads this book is likely to be drawn to the attractions of the southern tip of Africa. So, my advice is that you don’t read this book if you do not want to fall in love with the cityscape of Cape Town’s CBD, the famed flat-topped Table Mountain, the breathtaking Winelands and the Overberg and Little Karoo!
While I do not wish to sound like a marketer, I can nevertheless say The Fairest Cape is an example of a good travel book whose well written text blends well with well taken, captivating colourful pictures of an equally great location.
Gifted with a flair for words and descriptions, writer Sean Fraser makes the Western Cape Province of South Africa sound like the dreamt-for paradise that many of us long for. This, coupled with great tourism photography of Zimbabwe-born photographer Mark Skinner, may give the reader a giddy feeling. The writer/photographer team captures the cultures of the various people ranging from the ancient Khoisan to the descendants of the slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, all the way to that of the cosmopolitan citizens of the 21st century.
If you are like me, some of the photographs that are likely to captivate you most are those of the beach at Bloubergstrand, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the Italian Renaissance-styled Cape Town City Hall, Cape Dutch architecture, V & A Waterfront, Table Mountain, the informal trading stalls dotting the quaint, old cobbled corners of the hip and trendy modern Mother City, the street musicians, fire eaters, mime artists, hand-painted fabrics and roughly hewn sculptures, and the Victorian, Edwardian, and Georgian-style architecture of Cape Town.
After a general but colourful introduction running eight pages on The Fairest Cape, this book on high quality art paper proceeds to tackle the entire Western Cape in seven other chapters: The Mother City, Table Mountain, The Waterfront, The Peninsula, The Winelands, The West Coast, The Overberg and Little Karoo, and The Garden Route.
The Cape, The Fairest Cape says, had been settled by the Khoisan for 10 millennia long before the world’s great empires and military powers sent out explorers and soldiers to lay claim on the most productive and most beautiful lands, seas and islands.
The Cape Peninsula, The Fairest Cape says, remains as alluring as the days when its sandy beaches were first trod by the ancient Khoi and San.
“The natural wonder of its craggy mountain face, its salt-sprayed shore, and the lush woodlands of its interior offer one of the most picturesque vistas on the entire continent,” the book says.
Yes, Cape Town may be a modern city but it is also a happy mix of trendy city life and the gentler, laidback lifestyle that is likely to appeal to holidaymakers. The colourful and diverse cultures, heritage and magnificent scenery of this region result in an almost magical experience for the traveller.
Published by Sunbird Publishers of Cape Town, the creative team of publisher Natanya Mulholland, editor Brenda Brickman, designer Mandy McKay and production manager Andrew de Kock have done a commendable job in putting this project together.